Featured

The Journey Begins

Getting ready for flight over Vancouver City from Grouse mountain.

Isn’t it better to look back on your life and say “Boy, I can’t believe I did that than to lament “I wish I’d done that”?

We met about six years ago online and realized we shared a similar passion for traveling and exploring. I’m originally from Speightstown Barbados and Trudy is from Helmbrechts, Germany. We’re married and now living in Round Rock Texas, USA. Between us, we’ve been to over fifty countries.

Welcome to our travel blog, designed to cater to older travelers like ourselves. We’re Trudy and Andy (Trandy) and our aim is to give insight through our own adventures to travelers, especially to those who might be venturing out for the first time, or haven’t traveled extensively. We will share with you ideas on affordable hotel rates, where to find upscale or cheap eats, some not to be missed attractions including some off the beaten path, ideas on how to stay safe, basically some do’s and don’ts especially when traveling abroad.

Barbados, March 2020

This trip was a coming home for me. I’d been to my wife’s home country of Germany a few times so I was beyond excited to show her around the place I grew up. Lately, our flight days have been pretty long. Our home airport in Austin Texas doesn’t offer a lot of direct international flights so we connected through Miami. On arrival in Barbados, we were temperature checked as we entered the terminal for any sign of fever. This precaution was in response to the Corona virus. We were quite lucky in the timing of our trip because just after returning, all the lock downs started happening in response to the rapidly spreading virus. Getting through this small and quite modern airport was a breeze as they now have a lot of self serve kiosks. Once we cleared Customs and exited the airport, we headed to the taxi dispatch booth. We’ve been to a few countries where the taxi situation seems like a free for all, but here was very well organised. Fares are clearly posted. You can prearrange rides through your hotel but it’s just as easy to get one on your own like we did.

Arrival in Barbados
Part of the Grantley Adams airport terminal.

We booked our stay at the Rostrevor Hotel in St Lawrence Gap, a lively area with lots of bars and restaurants and nice beaches nearby. http://ww.rostrevorbarbados.com It’s considered a budget hotel as hotels go in Barbados (there are some really expensive ones) Whenever possible, we choose hotels that have a kitchenette which is great for preparing some of your own meals and a great cost savings tool. With the abundance of fresh fish, fruits and vegetables available locally, this was a no brainer. There’s a bar and small restaurant in the hotel and the Harlequin restaurant http://harlequinrestaurant.com is right next door. Just steps away there is a convenience store and there are supermarkets in the area. We chose this location because of it’s proximity to the airport. A fifteen minute taxi ride to the hotel cost us about $US 15.00, fares are fixed so no need to haggle. The capital Bridgetown is also close, about twenty minutes, the Hastings area which is even closer offers lots of amenities as well.

Harlequin Restaurant.

St Lawrence Gap in Christ Church parish has a vibrant restaurant and bar scene. After a long travel day, we relaxed with drinks at Sharkey’s Bar just across the street from our hotel. http://sharkeysbarbados.com

Pina Coladas at Sharkey’s.
Brazilian Steakhouse in the Gap.
Pronto Restaurant .
Pizza & Roti at Pronto Restaurant.

On day two, we took a trip into the historic city of Bridgetown located in St Michael parish. This capital city has a UNESCO world heritage site designation. We traveled by way of the local transportation. If you don’t want to take taxis everywhere, there are plenty of other options. There are three main types of public transportation, the privately owned white vans ZR licence tags, mini buses, yellow with blue stripe and the government run buses, blue with yellow stripe. The government buses run on a schedule and stop only at bus stops, you need exact change $BDS only. The others stop anywhere and are very convenient. Fare is BDS 3.50 but $US welcome. They usually have conductors on board and can make change.

ZR vans pack in as many as possible

Bridgetown is a great walking city. Public transport drops you off in the heart of town. We walked around the marina and boardwalk, bought a few souvenirs then visited the Parliament buildings which houses the third oldest parliament in the Americas, Heroes’ Square with it’s World Wars I & II Memorial Cenotaph, Queen’s Park to see the massive baobab tree, Independence Square, St Michael’s Cathedral which dates back to 1665, the Nidhe Israel Synagogue built in 1664.

Parliament Buildings
Statue of Admiral Nelson in the old Trafalgar Square which predated the one in London. It’s now called Heroes’ Square.
Restaurants, gift shops & charter boat companies are here on the Waterfront.
Bridgetown Marina & Boardwalk
World War I & II memorial.
Fountain in Independence Square
St Michael’s Cathedral
Nidhe Israel Synagogue (1654) one of the oldest in the Americas.
Supreme Court of Barbados.

Our walk around Bridgetown took us into Queen’s Park to see the massive Baobab tree then ventured into Swan Street, a bustling pedestrian only area with lots of shops, eateries and street vendors. This is a place popular with locals and tourists alike. Lots of bargains to be had here. A little ways out of town, we checked out the fish market as the fresh catch was just coming in and did a quick stop at the Pelican Arts & Crafts Centre. All of this walking works up a real hunger so we checked in to Chefette Restaurant, the Bajan fast food chain. Lunch for two is no more than BDS $25.00 Offerings include roasted chicken, burgers, rotis (curried beef, chicken or vegetables in a flour wrap).

Baobab tree in Queen’s Park
Swan Street.
Pelican arts & crafts centre conveniently located near the cruise terminal.
Cheapside fish market.
Fresh caught Mahi Mahi or dolphin fish as the locals call it.
Bajan fast food restaurant.

After our day in Bridgetown, we took a stroll along the beach, part of the long stretch that is Carlisle Bay. A walk along the Hastings boardwalk did not disappoint. Finally, we headed back to our hotel for some much needed pool time.

Beach near Needham’s Point.
Ceramic tile mosaic wall on boardwalk.
Boardwalk in Hastings.

To explore more of the island, you can book a tour, arrange for a private driver or just rent a car. We choose the latter. Express Rent A Car was within walking distance of our hotel so we booked through them. We received one free day if we booked four days or more cost was US $80.00 per day, taxes and drivers’ permit included. You drive on the left side here British style but after a few days you get used to it. We hit the road and our first stop was the Historic Garrison Savannah area. There you’ll find the Barbados Museum, George Washington House, (Barbados was the only country the first US president ever visited) The old barracks and clock tower, several cannons and tunnels and of course the horse racing track. We stayed for the ceremonial changing of the sentry which is done every Thursday at noon. It was nice to see the old veterans still carrying on the tradition.

Garrison Clock Tower.
Changing of the sentry ceremony.
The Drum Corps
Barbados has the rarest collection of 17th century English iron cannon.
Barbados Museum.
Museum courtyard with the old Garrison barracks.
George Washington House

We returned to the Garrison on Saturday for horse racing with the featured annual Gold Cup high stakes event for thoroughbreds. http://barbadosturfclub.com This is such a big and exciting event, seems like half of the island’s population was there. It’s like one huge tail gating party, there’s no entrance fee to the grounds so you just pull up in your vehicle, find a spot, set up your little picnic or whatever and enjoy. You could sit in the stands for $BDS 50, regular race day is about $10. There are video clips of some of the action including the parade We opted to take the bus there as the traffic leaving was going to be a nightmare and it was. We ended up walking the three miles back to our hotel with a stop at Mama Mia’s where they serve some of the best authentic brick oven pizza on the island. http://mamamiadeli.com There are video clips of some of the action for you to check out below.

Sandy Lane Gold Cup race.
Trudy at the races. They’ve been racing here since 1845.
Pizza restaurant in Hastings Christ Church parish.
Mama Mia’s pizza baked in authentic brick oven.

After a good night’s sleep, we hopped in the car and headed down the West Coast for a stop in Speightstown, the second largest town and my old hometown. A stop at the old Fisherman’s Pub is a must. Established in 1936 to cater to fishermen after a long day at sea, this restaurant offers buffet lunch and has a wide variety of authentic Bajan dishes. Lunch for two was under US $30.00. After lunch, PRC Bakery was worth a visit to get some coconut turnovers and sweet bread. After walking the town we ended up on Heywoods Beach for a well earned dip in the surf.

Fishermans’ Pub Speightstown, St Peter parish was established in 1936.
Old style fishing boat.
Small bakery in town, we couldn’t resist the coconut turnovers.
Fruit & vegetable vendor.
Fish market & Esplanade, Queen Street.
Speightstown Esplanade.
Speightstown.
St Peter’s Parish church, originally a wooden structure built in 1629, replaced in 1665, ravaged by hurricane in 1831, rebuilt and consecrated in 1837, then damaged by fire in 1980.
Queen Street.
Heywoods Beach.

Another beautiful, sunny day. Time to head into the country to check out the Grenade Hall old growth forest with its caves, soaring palms, mahogany and cottonwood trees to name a few. We climbed the old restored signal station which offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. This is all part of a wildlife reserve and one fee (US $15.00 covers both areas. http://barbadoswildlifereserve.com There are troops of monkeys roaming about and you can hand feed them if you like. There’s also a general feeding by staff at 10:00 and 2:00 pm. We came mainly to see the monkeys but there are other animals including parrots, peacocks, deer, mara, iguanas and hundreds of tortoises.

Grenade Hall signal station.
Peacock.
Iguana & turtles.

After leaving the wild life reserve, our drive through the country continued with a stop at the Cherry Tree Hill overlook. Here we got a sense of the rugged beauty of the East Coast. We spent about twenty minutes here then continued along a narrow winding road through sugar cane fields past the Morgan Lewis farm. Here you’ll find the only still intact sugar mill on the island. A quick picture and we’re on our way.

Grove of mahogany trees on the way to Cherry Tree Hill lookout.
Cherry Tree Hill overlooking the Scotland District.
Country road.
Morgan Lewis, last of the sugar mills still with all is internal machinery, now just a tourist attraction.

Our drive continued along the beautiful and rugged East Coast. I always loved coming here as a kid, the terrain and the surf were so much more interesting. There are fewer hotels and restaurants here but just enough to satisfy. The pounding surf makes it a popular spot for surfers. The beaches are not crowded and you can swim here but keep to the tide pools for safety. We stopped at a few nice overlook spots to take it all in.

Bathsheba overlook in St Joseph parish.
Rock formations along the Bathsheba coast.

Our next stop was Andromeda Gardens. http://andromedabarbados.com This is the original botanic garden of Barbados. Started out as a private garden but opened to the public in the 70’s While not considered a flower garden, it still has a wide variety of flowers, shrubs, trees and more types of palms than I was aware of. Entrance fee is US $15.00 and tours are self guided. There are places to sit and relax in this six acre wonder so we took our time checking out the various species of flowers and trees.

Truly magnificent trees.
Bearded fig trees.

As our journey continued, we stopped in at the historic Codrington College which dates back to the 1700’s. It’s now an Anglican seminary with University of the West Indies affiliation. We walked the grounds and just marveled at this great Barbadian treasure.

Cabbage palms line the entrance to Codrington College.
Codrington College, St John parish.
Detail of the arches.
The great lawn.

As we continued our trip around the island, we ended up at the easternmost point and the iconic Ragged Point lighthouse built in 1875. Not your typical tourist spot, a bit off the beaten path, but hiking along those majestic cliffs was something special.

Ragged Point, St Philip parish.
East Point (Ragged Point) lighthouse.

Our last full day begins with a trip to the Earthworks Pottery in St Thomas parish. http://www.earthworks-pottery.com We always wanted to learn more about the process of creating beautiful pieces from start to finish. We walked around the studio, talked to workers who gave some insight into what they were doing and also gave demonstrations. The pieces here are unbelievably beautiful. We ended up purchasing a very nice plate. They can ship larger items if you desire.

Earthworks Pottery in St Thomas parish.

After a truly amazing and educational experience at Earthworks, our next attraction for the day was the Animal Flower Cave at the northern end of the island. http://animalflowercave.com This naturally formed sea cave is one of the island’s oldest attractions and we were excited to experience it. A quick stop in Speightstown to pick up some coconut turnovers at our favorite little bakery and some fruits from a street vendor for snacking later. Driving through the northern parishes is a bit more relaxed as they are not as heavily populated. On arriving at North Point, we found the scenery at to be very interesting with steep cliffs, blow holes and caves. You can hike along the cliffs or just sit on the various benches that are available. A few minutes before we arrived, a pod of migrating whales had just gone by and we missed it. We came for the cave and to access it you have to make your way down some very steep and narrow steps that were hand carved about a hundred years ago. There are guided tours. It’s relatively large inside and there are some windows to the sea. There’s a pool where you can swim but we opted not to.

North Point, St Lucy parish.
Cliff Dining, North Point.
Window to the sea.
Some video from inside the cave.
One of the pools.
Some of the sea anemones or animal flowers. They close up and retract when touched.

There are eleven parishes on my little island and we touched ten of them. There’s so much to see and do here, we barely scratched the surface. Getting around was easy, I guess a little local knowledge helps. We will definitely be back and you should put this destination on your list. This is by no means the cheapest island out there but with some research you can find the right deal to fit your budget. Come for the sea and sand, the history, the traditions but by all means, come!!!

East Coast beach.
Beautiful sunset from our last evening.

Curacao Dreams December 2019

Curacao here we come.

Visit Curacao, you won’t be disappointed. This small island has a lot to offer. Besides the usual offerings like sand & surf, there’s great shopping, dining both local and international, museums, art galleries, Great houses or Landhuizen as the old plantation houses are called, off shore adventures and so much more. Getting around is so easy, Dutch, English, Spanish and Papiamentu the local dialect are all spoken freely. From what we’ve seen and experienced, the country seems very safe, police and private security were ever present and we felt very comfortable venturing out on the town even in the evenings.

The best time to visit, economically speaking is off peak season, May to November. Hotel rates and airfares are much cheaper but really, any time of the year is fine since there’s hardly a threat of hurricanes, average temperatures are in the mid 80’s F (30 C) and rainfall is minimal.

Handelskade (on the waterfront)

We spent a week at the newly renovated Marriott Beach Resort, but while everything was shiny and new, you could see they were still working some of the kinks out. The hotel wasn’t very full as it had only been open for a few days. We asked for and got upgraded to an ocean front room. Overall though, it was a pleasant experience. http://mariott.com

Room with a view.

On our second day there, we decided to take the 2.5 mile (4 km) walk into Willemstad. If you’d rather not walk, you could take a local bus (Autobus Bedrijf) fare is 2.00 Guilder approx US $1.15 There is a bus station in Otrobanda and also Punda. Taxis (licence plate TX) are another option to get around. Taxis are unmetered and work off a rate sheet based on four persons. Rates can change depending on the amount of luggage you have or if you need service after 11:00 pm. Discuss fare before hand. There are no Ubers here. You can also rent a car, a compact is all you need, all the major rental companies are represented here or you can just hire a driver for the day.

Willemstad has four distinct quarters. Otrobanda is on the west side, cross the Queen Emma bridge to Punda and further east is Pietermaai, to the north across the Queen Wilhelmina or L.B. Smith bridges is Sharloo.

We checked out Rif Fort (built in 1828) now a trendy spot that houses retail shops and restaurants, a beautiful setting where you can see cruise ships in port and next door the Renaissance Hotel Casino and shopping mall.

Rif Fort with nearby cruise terminal & Renassaince Hotel & Mall

We grabbed a quick lunch at the Gondola Italian restaurant, their pasta and pizza are the best.

Gondola Restaurant Pizza & Pasta.

After lunch, we headed over the Queen Emma pontoon bridge, stopping occasionally for photos. This bridge opens periodically to allow ships and other water craft to travel in and out of the inner harbor. We happened to catch a few openings later in the day.

Watch video here.

Queen Emma pontoon bridge

We marveled at the beauty and color of the buildings along the Handelskade, great photo op here.

Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge

On the north side of Punda, we paid a visit to the Central Market which has a wide array of goods, fruits, vegetables, clothing shops, souvenirs and the like. Next door is the Old Market (Plasa Bieu) which is now a food court specializing in local cuisine. I really wanted to try the iguana soup but thought better of it, maybe next time.

Central Market.
Inside Plasa Bieu.

We enjoyed some ice cream at the Iguana Cafe which offers al fresco dining on the waterfront. It was a welcome treat after a day of exploring the city’s side streets, shops, art galleries and eateries.

Iguana Cafe on the waterfront.

Some scenes from our self guided city tour.

Art District.
The term”Dushi” is Papiamento and is used as a term of endearment. Depending on the context, it can mean love, sexy, sweetheart, nice, pleasant or tasty.
Lots of outside dining.

As part of our city exploration, we strolled through the historic Pietermaai district, checking out the fully restored 200 plus year old houses that’s now home to boutique hotels, bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Very vibrant night scene here for which we returned in the evening to dine at Ginger’s and drinks later at Cafe Mundo Bizarro enjoying some salsa music.

Restored houses in historic Pietermaai district.
Cafe Mundo Bizarro http://mundobizarrocuracao.com

Salsa music video here.

Cozy Restaurant, Carib, Asian, Indian fusion http://gingercuracao.com
Tandoori beef & chicken sate.

So many dining options along the waterfront. We stopped for lunch at the Grillking Steak house. Local, family friendly and reasonably priced eats.

We came across this local gem on our walk into town.
Waterfort Arches restaurants & bars nestled amongst the walls that protected the canal, built in 1828

We took some time out to visit Kura Hulanda Museum ($10.00 admission) to learn about the slave trade in the Caribbean and the Americas. Great collection of artifacts on display. If this experience doesn’t move you, you simply cannot be moved.

Museum chronicling the slave trade in the Caribbean and the Americas
Monument to the abolition of slavery.

The oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere dating back to 1651, Mikve Israel-Emanuel can be found in Punda. The interior has a sand floor symbolizing the desert through which the Israelites made their journey to freedom. To book a tour, email info@snoa.com

Oldest synagogue in the western hemisphere, has a sand floor to simulate the desert

We were there during the Holiday season so everything was festive and bright. The town really comes alive in the evening, the lights, music, it seems on every corner, food vendors, outdoor cafes packed, everyone having a great time.

It’s time to get out of the city for a bit so we rented a car and set out to explore. We rented from Hertz (available at the hotel) for one day US$49.95 base price for an economy compact. Driving is easy here ( you drive on the right side) Once out of the city, traffic is very light. We wanted to experience a bit of the rugged north shore with it’s desert like landscape and also the beaches.

Out of Willemstad on the main highway Weg Naar Westpunt, we turned onto Weg Naar St Willibrordus. About two miles down the road, just pull over to see flocks of flamingos, best viewing time is early to mid morning, this is a free attraction.

We stopped in to the Landhuis Jan Kok, one of the many slave plantation houses on the island. It now showcases the work of late local artist Nena Sanchez. There’s also a gallery in Willemstad. For more information on this artist’s work check out the website. https://www.nenasanchez.com

Landhuis Jan Kok.

Heading back on Weg Naar Westpunt we made a quick stop in Barber at the Hofi Pastor nature area to check out the very impressive 800 yr old Kapoc tree with it’s massive roots and gnarly limbs. There are a few short hiking trails here. The $3.00 entrance fee is more of a donation than anything else, few amenities here but it’s all about the tree.

800 yr old Kapoc tree.

On the road to Shete Boka National park, the wild north side with it’s caves, blowholes and inlet. It feels worlds apart from Willemstad, there’s a peacefulness about the area. We paid US $10.00 entrance fee plus $2.00 for a map. You could explore either on foot or venture farther out by car, we chose the latter. To some the entrance fee might seem like a lot but the money helps to provide security in the more remote regions of the park. Security is taken seriously here so there was no sense of uneasiness as we went a bit off the beaten path. We entered one of the sea caves where I shot this video. A bit eerie and cool at the same time. Check it out.

Park entrance, $10.00 entrance fee $2.00 for map. Security presence in more remote parking areas.
Desert like landscape on the north side.
Natural Bridge.
One of the many blowholes. Check out the short video below.

There are no seven mile beaches here. Most, especially on the north west side can be described as inlets carved out of cliffs but they are a good size nonetheless. We visited Playa Porto Mari where wild but friendly pigs are known to roam about. It’s a beautiful white sand beach a bit off the beaten path, popular with tourists and locals. There are some amenities, snack bar and restaurant, toilets, changing rooms and chair rentals. Great for snorkeling and diving. Dive shop on site.

Playa Porto Mari where wild pigs visit the beach occasionally, we did see one as we were leaving.

Our anniversary dinner at Namora’s Restaurant. http://namoracuracao.com Located within walking distance of the Mariott, it’s fine dining at it’s best. All the courses were prepared and presently exquisitely. Dinner for two is easily US $200.00 plus but it’s not somewhere you go very often. Something to bear in mind, most nicer restaurants add a service charge anywhere from 10 to 20% some of which goes in a tip pool for your servers so beware of that when you tip. It’s not allowed to be taken off your credit card so it’s added directly to your bill.

Time to say goodbye. We really enjoyed our time here and recommend you add this destination to your list. Danki Curacao, te aworo.

Bora Bora, French Polynesia, 2018

When we got married, we made a promise that for our fifth anniversary, not only were we going to Bora Bora, but we would stay in an over water bungalow. Promise kept!!! From our home base in Texas, getting to the South Pacific made for a long travel day but we were very excited, we’re finally doing it. We checked in at Austin Bergstrom airport for our 6:30 pm American Airlines flight to LAX. Not the smoothest of check ins. We were asked to check our bags through to Tahiti which we didn’t want, full flight we were told. As it turned out, there was plenty of overhead bin space. Needless to say, we weren’t happy. The thought of not having your bags with you can be a bit unsettling especially when connections are involved.

View from our plane at LAX.

On arrival at LAX, we had to make our way to Terminal B. It was quite a long walk to get there but we had a three hour layover. The second leg of the flight was at 11:00 pm. The boarding process was a bit weird. We were called by sections, then boarded buses that took us to the aircraft. Upon exiting the buses, there was no order in boarding the plane so the whole system of calling sections for the bus made no sense. The eight and a half hour flight itself was great. Air Tahiti Nui Boeing 787 Dreamliner http://airtahitinui.com is by far the most comfortable plane I’ve traveled on. The food and service were great as well.

Aboard the Air Tahiti Nui Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Welcome to Papeete, Tahiti.

At around 5:30 am the following day, we arrived at the Tahiti Faa’a airport, collected our bags (thankfully they made it) and checked in for a quick fifty minute flight to Bora Bora aboard a smaller turbo prop plane. The main island is surrounded by a ring of smaller islands called motus and the airport is situated on one of these islands.

Watch some video of the fifty minute flight from Tahiti to Bora Bora.
Arrival at Bora Bora airport.

Since most of the resorts are located on the small islands, they all have their own free shuttle service. After meeting our hotel representative and being adorned with the traditional lei necklaces, we boarded a boat for the ten minute ride to the resort. See video below . We stayed at the Pearl Beach Resort which is the only hotel on the very private Motu Tevairoa. https://www.boraborapearlbeachresort.com/

Arrival at boat dock from airport.
Finally here at Pearl Beach Resort.

We arrived quite early, 8:30 am, and understandably our bungalow wasn’t ready. Since breakfast was still being served, we made our way over to Tevairoa restaurant, one of three restaurants at the resort. The staff was very friendly and welcoming. French, Tahitian and English is spoken here. After breakfast, we walked around a bit then relaxed in the lobby with some welcome drinks while our room was being prepared.

Lobby & reception area.
Welcome drink.
I think we’re going to like this place.
Bougainvillea flowers.

Our bungalow is finally ready. It’s been such a long day, we just wanted to get settled, get off our feet and and marvel at the beautiful surroundings, the mountains and of course the crystal blue green water. We got a welcome visit from a stingray who came by to see us everyday during our stay. As night fell, we were treated to one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.

Checking out our bungalow, number 40

Our young stingray came for a visit every morning
Beautiful sunset from our bungalow.
I’ve never seen a more beautiful sunset.

After falling asleep to the sound of the water gently lapping against the pylons of our bungalow, we arose just in time to catch the sun rise behind Mt Otemanu. The beginning of a great day in paradise. Tevairoa restaurant is where breakfast is served every day so that was our first stop. We will spend this day rather leisurely, just checking out the amenities. We toured the spa and the well equipped fitness center. There’s also a game room, tennis court, mini golf and a dive center for all your water sports activities. We tried our hand at paddle boarding but weren’t very good at it.

Morning has broken, sunrise over Mt Otemanu.
Pool area with Miki Miki restaurant & Bar
Concierge and event planning.
Garden bungalows.
Taurearea sushi restaurant.

We’re liking what we’re seeing so far. I can’t believe we’re really here. It’s always been a dream of mine to travel to the South Pacific and here I am with my lovely wife Trudy. After getting the lay of the land, we went back to the bungalow to prepare for our first swim in the lagoon. What a magical moment. The water is only about three feet deep, crystal clear, warm and soothing.

After several hours, we managed to drag ourselves out of the water and prepare ourselves for dinner at the Tevairoa restaurant. The tranquility of this setting coupled with the gentle, balmy breezes made for a very pleasant evening. The food, the wine and the service were superb. Trudy had a perfectly cooked rib eye steak and I opted for the freshly caught wahoo, pan seared and served with a chorizo tomato cream sauce. Breakfast is the only complimentary meal and a basic dinner cost about 10,000 Polynesian francs, roughly 90 US dollars. We’ll sleep well tonight for tomorrow, we head into town.

Dinner at Tevairoa restaurant.

For the trip to Vaitape on the mainland, we scheduled the 9:00 am shuttle. The resort offers this free boat service across the bay, then you take a fifteen minute bus ride from the dock to town, US 16.00 round trip. For return trips to the resort, you should be at the dock by 12:30 or 5:00 pm. Since we had arranged for a rental car through the concierge, we met the rental agent at the dock upon disembarking and she drove us into town. All the cars at this particular rental company (Avis) were manual transmission so this is one thing you need to be aware of when you choose a rental company. For me it wasn’t a problem. We opted for a full day rental but should have done a half day instead. Driving is on the right side and the roads were pretty good, somewhat narrow but there are lots of small cars here. Once out of town, traffic is minimal. It takes about an hour to drive around the island (eighteen miles) so unless you’re checking out restaurants, bar hopping or lounging the beaches, it doesn’t make much sense to do a full day rate. Bikes can be rented for about US $ 20.00 per day. The terrain is fairly flat, only one small hill I can recall. Motor scooters are also available for rent.

Rental with standard shift transmission. Check before you rent and opt for the half day rental.
These little two seaters are also available for rent.

After our drive around the island, we walked around Vaitape, checking out the souvenir shops, craft stores, fruit and vegetable stands, the waterfront area with cruise ships anchored in the bay and some jewelry stores. Here you can find the exquisite black Tahitian pearls. If you’re buying pearls, go with a reputable jeweler as there is some fake merchandise out there.

The main street in the heart of town.
Private yacht.
Windstar Spirit cruise ship.
A banana tree is cut down after the bunch is harvested but the tree has already been producing a number of shoots that will turn into mature trees and the cycle continues.

Lunch time is approaching so we check in at the Aloe Cafe, a quaint little bistro tucked away in the corner of small shopping plaza. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a light lunch and some very good ice cream and sorbet. There were some food trucks around as well where you could get hot dogs, crepes and sandwiches. We met a nice older couple who were in Bora Bora for the day. They were on a South Pacific islands cruise on the Windstar Spirit.

Bora Bora can be a very expensive place so before heading back to the resort, we bought some fruit from one of the roadside stands, then stopped in at Chin Lee’s grocery store (where everyone goes) to pick up some snacks and other light foodstuff. There were fresh baguettes and a great selection of cheeses and wines, obviously the French connection has something to do with that. It’s interesting to see all the resort guests on the boat trip back with their shopping bags filled with groceries and other food. Paradise does come at a cost. That evening, we relaxed in our bungalow while enjoying a light supper and discussing the plans for the next day.

Chin Lee grocery store where locals & tourists shop, it has everything you need.

Another day, another beautiful sunrise. There hasn’t been a drop of rain so far and we’re loving it. We begin our day with a one hour workout at the gym. This was by far one of the nicer gyms we’ve seen in our travels. We opted for an easy, laid back day today so after hitting the breakfast buffet, we went swimming and kayaking around the lagoon. You can do as much or as little as you want around here, there are plenty of tours to go on if you need some adventures or you can just stay around the resort and chill out. Evening falls quickly here since it’s close to the equator. Tonight we’ll have drinks at the Miki Miki bar and enjoy some traditional Polynesian music.

Well equipped gym.
Jamming at the Miki Miki pool bar.
Moonlight over Pearl Beach.

It’s Sunday morning I think, but who’s keeping track of days anyway. This day promises to be an exciting one. Trudy booked herself a spa day, the Otemanu treatment special complete with a coconut sugar scrub, bath and massage, facial, hair and scalp conditioner, jacuzzi, the works. Meanwhile, I went swimming with sharks and stingrays. It was a very enjoyable sail around the island, stopping off at some prime snorkeling spots and swimming in the crystal clear waters. There are a variety of tours that you can book directly through the hotel.

The Spa in a garden like setting.
Getting ready for the shark encounter excursion.

View snorkel video here.

View shark videos here.

Monday night is Polynesian buffet and show at the main restaurant, Tevairoa. The two other restaurants are closed this evening but the pool bar is open and offers a light menu if you’re not inclined to spend the CFP 8500 (approx US $75.00 per person) Of course we’re going. We travel for experiences so we’re all in. There were a lot of great selections offered on the buffet, several varieties of marinated fish, salads, meats and vegetables, fresh fruit juices. The use of local ingredients like coconut, pineapple and papaya were incorporated into the French inspired pastries. Midway through dinner, the show begins. It’s your typical Polynesian show with the dancing young women being the main attraction. We’ve probably all seen these scenes from the South Pacific in the movies before, but to see it live in this setting is something special. There was guest interaction and photo sessions afterwards.

Polynesian dance video below.

The day after a fabulous evening, we took one more trip into town for some last minute shopping, then spent the remainder of our time enjoying our bungalow and snorkeling the small artificial reefs around the the lagoon. We see the occasional cruise ships passing by, mostly smaller ones like the Aida and Paul Gauguin.

Snorkeling the reef around the lagoon. See video below.

It’s been a wonderful ten days in what really felt like paradise, a dream come true for both of us. This wasn’t one of our usual active, adventurous vacations but sometimes you need to slow it down and relax a bit. We can look back on this trip with great fondness. It was a once in a lifetime kind of trip but we definitely want to return.